New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently berated conservatives — including pro-lifers, Second Amendment supporters, and gay-marriage opponents — as people who “have no place in the state of New York.” But Cuomo has a long history of behaving like a schoolyard bully.
Just last week, former Binghamton mayor Matthew Ryan, a Democrat, told a local radio station that because of his policy disagreements with Cuomo, on fracking and pension reform, he wound up on the governor’s “s*** list.” Over the past two years, Cuomo refused to invite him to local events “because of his dislike of me,” Ryan said, adding that “nobody likes” the governor because “he’s a very powerful guy who’s very vindictive, and if you get in his way, he’ll try to crush you.”
State comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, also a Democrat, was another politician on Cuomo’s list of enemies, Ryan said. In August 2013, after DiNapoli had issued a series of critical reports on the state government’s fiscal management, Cuomo retaliated by ordering an audit of the comptroller’s office, which uncovered “problems that are putting retirees and taxpayers at significant risk.”
In May 2013, the Seneca Nation of Indians accused Cuomo of using “playground bully tactics” during a dispute over a casino-rights agreement in western New York. Cuomo suggested that state lawmakers would allow an established casino pact to expire in 2016 unless the Seneca coughed up more than $550 million in revenue.
Cuomo’s administration also came under fire in February of last year for the seemingly petty ousting of state employee Mike Fayette, who committed the unforgivable offense of speaking to the press without prior approval from Albany (even though Fayette had praised Cuomo in his remarks to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise about the administration’s handling of Tropical Storm Irene). A top Cuomo aide then took to the airwaves to disparage Fayette, citing an extensive disciplinary record. “If that were the issue here, the only issue, there would not have been a termination,” the aide said.
Cuomo’s “well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness,” in the words of New York journalist and radio personality Alan Chartock, dates back years. “He was just vicious,” a longtime Democratic operative told the New York Post in 2009. “If he got involved in something, people were terrorized.” That same year, according to the New York Times, Cuomo had reportedly urged state political and labor leaders not to back Caroline Kennedy — the cousin of his ex-wife, Kerry Kennedy — in the race to succeed Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.
As secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration, Cuomo pressured lenders to expand loans to “low- and moderate-income families,” a move that many have argued helped initiate the housing bubble that led to the crash of 2007–08. Decades earlier, when his father, Mario, was governor, Andrew’s antics earned him the nickname “Prince of Darkness.”
The younger Cuomo, who managed his father’s 1982 gubernatorial campaign, is widely thought to have been responsible for a controversial “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo” billboard that played up the notion that New York mayor Ed Koch was gay; Koch at the time was running against Mario Cuomo in the Democratic primary.
Such tactics would no doubt “have no place in the state of New York” these days. Bullies, on the other hand, are still welcome.
— Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online.